Wed, February 16, 2011
China > Politics

Cautious steps to land reform(3)

2011-02-16 07:27:46 GMT2011-02-16 15:27:46(Beijing Time)  Global Times

Arable land in rural Chengdu. Photo: CFP

A reporter from the Caixin media group gathered more then 500 signatures last month from Chengdu rural residents who oppose the new land reform.

"Most of the farmers think the land is theirs," the reporter who requested anonymity told the Global Times. "They've been living and working there for generations and the concept is deeply rooted.

"The government needs to explain things better, which I think is really hard as it's very, very complicated and these farmers either don't want to listen or plain don't understand."

Chengdu land reform kicked off in 2003: The city spent the next five years classifying land usage rights, checking what could or could not be done with each and every individual rural resident's parcel of land.

Sensitive problems

"Many historical problems linger," a Chengdu classifier who requested anonymity told the Global Times. "Some had lost their land certificates during the war while others simply couldn't find them."

"So it was hard for us to do our work and created some inevitable conflicts between the farmers and us. We ended up looking like the 'bad guys.'"

Officially their land-usage roster ended two years ago, but the official admitted many usage disputes remain unresolved.

Whatever the problems, reform is inevitable, agree all the experts interviewed by the Global Times.

The ultimate goal of reform, according to Chengdu government officials, is to engineer a smooth and advanced urbanization process.

Back in 2005, the central government actually wanted to improve social benefits for rural residents without implementing land or hukou reform, but later Beijing came to realize there were just too many surplus laborers in rural areas.

Unlike those migrant workers rushing to the cities in the hope of a better life, many surplus laborers interviewed by the Global Times live off their own family farming land. They don't necessarily want a job in the city as they are self-sufficient.

As a result, these people pay zero tax and so contribute little to national economic development.

To encourage these men and women to go work in the city, policy makers are promoting urbanization.

"Urbanization is a useful way of judging a country's development," said Peng Xizhe, a professor at the Social Development and Public Policy Institution in Fudan University, Shanghai.

"It converts traditional low efficiency work into high efficiency productivity and so leads to the generation of wealth and a better quality of life."

The proportion of urban residents average 70.9 percent in developed countries, with the UK at 90.8 percent, Germany 84.7 percent and Japan 78.3 percent.

The same average is 30.1 percent among developing countries, with China at 46.6 percent by the end of 2009.

"We can see that in China some farmers live well assuming their harvest is good," Peng said, "but we have to realize that the government is responsible for the development of the entire country and land reform is the best means so far toward enabling urbanization."

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